Mavs Donuts: Game 3's Burdensome Backpacks
In NBA history, 245 of the 261 teams that have trailed 2-0 in a seven-game series went on to lose. In a pivotal, series-defining Game 3 tonight at the American Airlines Center (early tip-off 6:00 p.m. on TXA 21), theses are the odds that the Dallas Mavericks are faced with.
That's 16 teams that have climbed the mountain. Ah, but were their backpacks as overloaded as Dallas' is right now?
You know a "devastated'' Chandler Parsons is out for the season with a right knee injury that will require surgery. The full to this point story on that is here ... and the story isn't done. Eventually, there will be questions about CP's readiness for next year ... and yes, all of this represents a burden as Richard Jefferson (and, we hope) the usually effective Aminu take on his load.
Meanwhile, Rajon Rondo (back/ego) has officially been disconnected and is no longer with the team. Now, we can argue that the removal of a cancer cell actually helps the sick patient ... But until we see otherwise, Rondo's almost unprecedented "retirement-in-the-middle-of-a-playoff-game'' behavior cannot be portrayed as a positive. (Oh, and we'll bet it might've gotten him benched from the starting lineup in Game 3 ... one reason his back might've started "hurting.''
On the bright side, reserve point guard Devin Harris (left great toe injury) is listed as probable after missing Saturday night’s game and is expected to play. JJ Barea (12.5 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists), who has filled in admirably with Harris out, might draw the start tonight, allowing Devin to remain in his regular rotation spot. And Ray Felton is suddenly a far more viable option than Rondo because ... well, at least Ray tries.
The Fish column on Rondo's ousting and the "DisConnect Four'' is here. Our story on Rick Carlisle pronouncing Rondo's career in Dallas as over is here.
Dallas has struggled to find life amidst all of the off-court adversity. Offensively, they’ve been sporadic. Defensively, they’ve looked lost; missing simple rotational assignments that have their effort being called into question. ... and we simply cannot believe that the Mavs' defenders having yet quite mastered the importance of running Houston shooters off the arc.
The Mavs showed up for practice yesterday afternoon with what we hope is a completely different attitude. ... one that reflects the message on those "We Are One'' t-shirts. Maybe we can argue they had a "relieved'' mindset ... ready to move forward with players that want to be here. ... or maybe we're just homers, seeing what we want to see.
History says there aren't many "Reasons for Optimism.'' This team's job is to look at it in another way. Carlisle's message to his team, we're told, goes something like this: "All Houston did in Games 1 and 2 is what Houston was supposed to do (according to oddsmakers). Now all we have to do in Game 3 is the same.''
While their performance on the court doesn’t seem to spell out the same story, Dallas has to manufacture every reason to be excited – even with the odds overwhelmingly stacked against them. For Game 3, the Mavs must take on the mentality of the 26-year-old Parsons, who made every effort to play despite not being healthy.
“It’s the playoffs, man,'' Parsons said yesterday, while announcing his season-ending surgery plans. "You’ve got to be really, really hurt not to play in a playoff game, in my eyes.''
Was that a Parsons parting shot at Rondo? Maybe.
Are those words worthy of being heeded by whichever Mavs do decide to show up to the gym tonight? Definitely.
There is a contractual decision to be made involving Aminu this summer ... and as you'll see below, DB.com is closing in on being ready to spring news on lots of summer decisions. But for now? Carlisle needs "want-to'' guys. ... guys like Al Farouq-Aminu.
Tonight, we want to see AFA leaned on as the Mavs attempt to handle Houston for the first time all series. In Parsons’ absence, Aminu (5.5 points, 5.0 rebounds) has stepped in playing beautifully, albeit in limited minutes, with high energy and, usually, composure.
And in Rondo's absence? AFA can help on D, too, as Dallas must continue to focus on containing James Harden (24.0 points, 8.5 assists), while putting an even greater emphasis on defending the pick-and-roll. Rockets head coach Kevin McHale has employed a strategy that has worked flawlessly through two games, utilizing their athletic front line to directly attack the laterally-challenged, 36-year-old Dirk.
Harden’s season averages are 27.4 points, 7 assists, 4 turnovers, 5.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals, 44-percent shooting, 37.5 percent from 3, and his per-100 ratings were 107.7 offensively and 101.9 defensively. Continue to allow those type of numbers in this series and ... it's a darn short series.
In Game 1 he couldn't pass.
In Game 2 he couldn't shoot.
In Games from here to eternity, maybe he cannot defend.
The Mavs (and Dirk himself) have done a terrible job of hiding him on D, and Houston's pick-and-rolls are directed right at him. An adjustment has to be made (we've talked of assigning Nowitzki to any Houston player not overly involved in screen-setting, maybe Ariza or Jet) ... and on offense?
We're not calling for any adjustment, really. Just the hope that "Playoff Dirk'' is an unusual beast -- a human being who coming into this series averaged 25.6 points, 10.1 boards and 2.5 assists while shooting 46 percent from the field in his 135 playoff games -- puts it together tonight.
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Monta once again is a key to success, and Carlisle has to do everything possible to get the nine-year veteran in pre-Rondo form. Through two games, Monta is averaging 20.0 points, while shooting a meager 33.3 percent from the field. He continues to force shots, driving into the lane aimlessly and committing uncharacteristic turnovers.
And yes, we're starting to develop a theory: Rondo has leadership skills. Rondo and Monta had a brotherly relationship. Monta's game declined greatly after the All-Star Break, as Rondo was working to accumulate power inside the AAC.
Did Rondo "lead'' Monta in a direction that can be reversed? Like, soon?
There is going to be a loud buzz in Portland if they lose in Round 1. ... There has been a loud buzz in Dallas way before being down 0-2 here ...
So, do you unplug from all of Dallas' best-laid plans regarding using $42 million worth of Bird Rights to change your thinking on keeping TY, Monta and Rondo in exchange for the truest heir to Dirk there can be?
Well, Rondo forced your hand. So yeah. And now you are left with, among the possibilities, signing TY or Monta is you also pry loose from the Blazers the DFW native LaMarcus Aldridge.
This is a story of a swimming pool being built in Dallas ... a story of the Mavs' swing-for-the-fences will being tested ... a story of whether free agents who are even from Dallas want to come to Dallas ...
So yes. We're not going to craft our scoop and our stories on this until the 2014-15 Mavs' fate is determined but yes. The LaMarcus Aldridge-to-the-Mavs concept is a real thing ... has been a real thing for months ... and we're starting to cook on it on DB.com Premium Boards.
Rockets fans are poking at Dallas fans for having "wanted'' Houston. That was the desire before the series and it's still the best option now. Why? Well, for one thing, it's the only option. ... the schedule says so.
But there is something else. Read our "Mavs-Rockets Primer For Smart People'' and you see the answers are all in there. Yeah, some of the answers included Rondo and some of the answers included Parsons and none of those answers included the psychological burden of 0-2 ... so now those backpacks have changed in weight.
But the ways to win outlined in that Mavs Primer still remain.
"We're coming home and we've got the best fans in the league," Carlisle said. "We're excited to be home.”
Perhaps some home cooking is just what Dallas needs ... but we're fascinated to see your mood tonight inside the building. Fans are salty about the way Rondo era ended, capped with one of the most ridiculous 10 seconds in Mavericks history. They are to the point where they their emotions are playing out in public ... will there be disdain expressed for the departed? Or towards the guys still playing, especially if there is an early deficit? Will the 2 p.m. pep rally "pep" anybody? And how, really, will the players respond to carrying these burdensome backpacks up this mountain?
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